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Nature photography contest winners create stunning images

Selby Image.JPG
Photo by Susan Beausang
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Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Flashing Heron was a first-place winner in this summer's Marie Selby Botanical Gardens' 42nd Annual Virtual Juried Photographic Exhibition

Stunning pictures of Sarasota’s Marie Selby Botanical Gardens abound in the winner’s categories of the orchid and bromeliad research and cultivation center’s summer photography contest.

Selby Gardens received nearly 300 submissions to the 42nd Annual Virtual Juried Photographic Exhibition. The photos had to be taken within the past two years at either Selby’s main campus on the bayfront in downtown Sarasota, or at the Historic Spanish Point campus in Osprey.

“This virtual exhibition provides an exhilarating, inspiring journey through the diverse nature and living art to be observed and experienced at Selby Gardens,” said Jennifer O. Rominiecki, Selby’s president and CEO. “We are so grateful that almost 200 exceptionally talented artists chose to share their vision of the beauty of our two bayfront sanctuaries through their entries.”

Selby is a world-class “air plants” sanctuary best known for its orchid research, and its botanists have discovered more than 2,000 plant species on more than 150 expeditions to tropical regions. The sanctuary now contains more than 20,000 living plants including 5,500 orchids, 3,500 bromeliads, and more than a thousand other epiphytes and other flora.

Conservation groups, schools, photography clubs, libraries, magazines, tourist development agencies, online photo sites, retail stores, and agencies of the state and federal governments held environmentally themed photo contests this summer throughout America, several based in Southwest Florida.

Even photo contests that were based on "great smiles" or "fun times" or "just surprise us" held this summer had a majority of entries shot outdoors.

At Selby, both the main campus on Sarasota’s bayfront and its satellite location at Spanish Pointe are huge tourist destinations. The 15-acre manicured campus in Sarasota is filled with huge banyan, bamboo, and live oak trees along with a butterfly garden, a fragrance garden, and an edible garden.

Historic Spanish Point is a 30-acre environmental complex with an archeological exhibit of a prehistoric shell mound known as a midden, a turn-of-the-century pioneer homestead, a former citrus packing house, a chapel, boatyard, gardens, and nature trails. The complex leads out to a raised observation deck along the Intracoastal Waterway.

A stunning black-and-white photo of an orchid by Patricia Nebel named The Bishop won best in show.

“Our judges were impressed by the talented photographers in our community,” Rominiecki said. “And we are delighted to share a diverse array of scenic moments from our two campuses in the resulting exhibition.”

Several other environmentally themed summer photo contests are now over as well (except for one that never ends), and the winners of at least two other photo contests are online while others will be posted soon.

Magic Morning.JPG
Susan Smart
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Landscape photo Magic Morning won two top awards in the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast's third annual nature photography contest

Also in Sarasota this summer, the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast held its third annual virtual photo contest. Winners were announced August 2. Professional photographers and children giving it their best "shot" were encouraged to enter, as long as the photo emphasized the natural beauty of the region.

Englewood travel and nature photographer Susan Smart won best in show and big picture categories with the painting-like quality of her landscape photo named Magic Morning.

Forest service contest

The Florida Forest Service has an ongoing photo contest open to all. Pictures must be taken at one of Florida’s state forests, and winners are chosen every three months.

State parks in Southwest Florida include the Babcock Ranch Preserve in southeastern Charlotte County, which was once part of the historic Crescent B Ranch. In 2006, the 67,618-acre tract was purchased by the state of Florida and Lee County in what was then the single largest state conservation land acquisition in Florida’s history.

The Myakka State Park covers about 37,000 acres in southern Sarasota County. The 5,000-acre Peace River State Park is in Desoto County near Arcadia. And the 32,000-acre Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest is mostly within Hendry County.

The quarterly state forest winners are automatically put into the agency's photo of the year contest. Winners of each segment of the contest will have their photos featured in various Florida Forest Service publications. Find out how to enter here.

National Marine Sanctuaries contest

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries photo contest, with images of the 15 marine protected areas that encompass more than 783,000 square miles, ended Sept. 5 and winners will be announced next month.

Environmental reporting for WGCU is funded in part by Volo Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to accelerate change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health. 

Sign up for WGCU's monthly environmental newsletter, the Green Flash, today.

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